As they say, all good things come in threes, and only when a camera, radar, and lidar (light detection and ranging) are used together can automated driving be as safe as possible on public roads. Before safe automated driving can become the norm, it is the third sensor principle – lidar – in addition to camera and radar that is needed.
Consequently, Bosch has come out of hiding with its new lidar sensor portfolio for autonomous vehicles which are production-ready, the first of its kind that is suitable for use in automotive applications.
Harold Kroeger, a Bosch management board member, said, “By filling the sensor gap, Bosch is making automated driving a viable possibility in the first place,”
Suitable for SAE Levels 3 to 5
If, for example, a motorcycle was to approach an automated vehicle at a junction whilst traveling at speed, lidar would be needed to detect it. This is because the plastic body of a motorcycle, in addition to its narrow silhouette, is difficult for radar and camera to detect alone.
Covering both close and long ranges, Bosch’s new sensor portfolio features their laser-based distance measurement technology, something that is necessary for driving functions at SAE levels 3 to 5 – where vehicles operate from conditional automation, where a driver is necessary, to full automation, where a vehicle is capable of operating without a driver under any and all conditions.
This is because camera, radar, and lidar complement one another perfectly and can provide reliable information in every driving situation.
A chart detailing the levels of driving automation created by Synopsys. Image Credit: Synopsys.
Lidar vs Radar
Although lidar has some similarities to radar, it has many advantages. For example, lidar offers high resolution at a longer range and a large lateral viewing angle. Laser-based distance measuring, like that used in Bosch’s new portfolio of sensors, can reliably detect non-metallic obstacles over long distances. This means that they are able to detect obstacles and hazards that would be missed without lidar, such as motorcyclists, large stones, or road cones. Being able to reliably detect these and then take immediate evasive action, such as braking, is an essential feature of an autonomous vehicle between SAE levels 3 and 5.
Lidar does have its drawbacks, however. It places a higher demand on vehicle resources and its own components – such as detectors and the laser source – particularly in terms of reliability and temperature resistance over time. However, Bosch says that long-range lidar will not only fulfill all safety requirements for automated driving but that it will also enable automakers to efficiently integrate the technology into a very wide range of vehicle types in the future.
Kroeger added, “We want to make automated driving safe, convenient, and fascinating. In this way, we will be making a decisive contribution to the mobility of the future”.